3D Printing as a Catalyst for the Next Industrial Revolution — A Few Questions For: AJ Perez
From its origin as a startup founded by a group of MIT graduates, Boston-based New Valence Robotics, more commonly known as NVBOTS, has seen incredible leaps forward, seeing success in crowdfunding and in seed funding, launching game-changing tech from the very beginning. This year has been an exciting one for the company, seeing multi-material metal 3D printing, newly formed partnerships, changes in executive staffing, and the full launch of the NVPro 3D printer. With all this going on, we’ve certainly been busy trying to keep up with this headline-grabbing company, based in Boston.
NVBOTS’ founder and Chairman AJ (Alfonso) Perez, who until recently served as the company’s CEO, is an MIT graduate (BS ’13, Mechanical Engineering; Masters of Engineering in Manufacturing ’14) who in his days at the esteemed institution patented both an automated network 3D printer and a novel gynecological surgery device; more recently, he co-developed MIT’s first graduate level class in 3D printing for the Mechanical Engineering department. Perez’s dedication to education is displayed through both his personal history in teaching classes and NVBOTS’ drive toward STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) education through several programs.
I first met AJ Perez this past spring at Inside 3D Printing NYC — and now I’m looking forward to catching up with him again in just a few months, as he prepares for December’s Inside 3D Printing San Diego, where he will be speaking in a session titled “Achieving Industry 4.0 Success Through Additive Manufacturing”. Ahead of this presentation, I had an early opportunity to check in on the latest from NVBOTS for this week’s exclusive interview feature, asking A Few Questions For Perez to find out now about how NVBOTS has been doing — and how Perez himself came to be so involved in the industry.
How did you first become interested in the tech arena? Has it been a lifelong interest?
I became interested in the tech space in my first few years at MIT / in Boston. I was always fascinated with construction and manufacturing as a kid, but never had an outlet for that creativity. The Boston tech scene made it possible for me to exercise my nerd muscles.
NVBOTS has certainly had a busy year; can you tell us about the reception to the NVPro since its release in the spring?
The NVPro launch was a phenomenal success this year. We were selected by Fast Company as one of the top 10 most innovative companies in Ed Tech and have seen remarkable growth in adoption of the NVPro by commercial businesses. It is always fun to watch a customer get MORE value than expected from the product — many have come back after an initial single NVPro pilot to order more so that all of their engineers have 24-7 access to the NVPro using the NVCloud.
We saw the NVPro’s Automated Part Removal process in action at I3DP New York; can you tell us how this idea came to be incorporated into the machine?
When we were students at MIT trying to build dozens of iterations of product prototypes with a 3D printer, we felt the pain of operating the 3D printer manually. Automation paired with the NVCloud’s remote control abilities was the natural solution to the problem. Without automation and cloud control, a human has to babysit the 3D printer. But with the combined package only available in the NVPro, now engineers are free to focus on their mission-critical work and not spend countless hours fiddling with and operating their 3D printer.
Your San Diego session is called “Achieving Industry 4.0 Success through Additive Manufacturing” — what can we expect from a big title like that?
Up until today, 3D printing has been a technology of 1’s. You can make a handful of prototypes faster and cheaper than your favorite machine shop. But as soon as you try to make 10 or 20, basic 3D printers just don’t cut it. And the incumbent technologies are not designed to make the transition to 100’s or 1000’s. The point is that up until now, 3D printing has been synonymous with rapid prototyping; my session is going to explain how the transition from 1’s to 100’s will happen for REAL manufacturing use of 3D printing technologies.
Do you think 3D printing truly represents the next industrial revolution?
No, 3D printing in a vacuum is not the next industrial revolution. What I mean is that automated distributed manufacturing is the next industrial revolution. 3D printing, in my view, is the catalyst for that change. In my opinion, the next industrial revolution is about remotely-controllable automated manufacturing — the NVPro is an example of this but not the only possibility moving forward.
I am most interested to see how businesses and engineers react to our newest products. Given our focus, and it seems the broader industry focus on metals, I am also interested to see the excitement about low-cost metal 3D printing.
What else should our readers know ahead of your session?
My session will be digestible for all ages and backgrounds. Although I hold a masters degree in advanced manufacturing from MIT and lecture on additive manufacturing, I want folks to know that this session will be easy to understand and a two-way discussion.
You can expect to see NVBOTS unveil new solutions to real manufacturing problems faced by industry that will be built upon our core technology platforms: the NVCloud and automation. The factory of the future is just one click away with the NVCloud and we want the world to experience one click manufacturing.
It’s almost refreshing, I have to say, to hear an industry insider not claiming that 3D printing is set to be, in and of itself, the actual next industrial revolution. While 3D technologies and additive manufacturing certainly have a lot to offer next-generation industry, the balanced view that these technologies are more of a catalyst than a be-all-end-all solution offers a more realistic view of what they can offer, in the right hands, and with the right complementary techniques.
We’ll certainly continue to follow up with the latest from NVBOTS — and look forward to hearing Perez speak at Inside 3D Printing San Diego. Register now for a discounted pass to the conference — and remember, using code 3DPRINT will save further on your registration!
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